- If you or your students are new to Twitter, my getting started handout is at bit.ly/twittergo.
THE TWITTER ESSAY
- A Twitter-essay condenses an argument with evidential support into 140 characters unleashed upon a hashtag in the Twitter-verse. Tweets often attempt to convey as much information in as few words as possible. A tweet could be seen, then, not as a paragon of the many potential horrors of student writing, but as a model of writerly concision. In composing their Twitter-essay, students proceed through all the steps they would take in writing a traditional academic essay, including brainstorming, composing, workshopping, and revising. I also have them consider and research their audience, the Twitter members engaged in discussion around a particular hashtag. Finally, I have them work dynamically with the Tweets of their peers, responding to them on Twitter and close-analyzing them in class. I ask the students to consider their word-choice, use of abbreviation, punctuation, etc. To model the activity and to give them a sense for the shape of a Twitter-essay, I compose my instructions for the assignment in exactly 140 characters and post them to Twitter.
- For a more detailed account of my experiments with the Twitter Essay:
The Twitter-enhanced Fishbowl Discussion
- First, the "rules" of a fishbowl discussion
Preparation: I usually have students formulate questions in small groups during the prior class period. I revise the questions and type them out in advance. I usually take out duplicates, combine questions that are similar, sneak in a few questions of my own, etc. As an alternative, the students can also come up with questions on the day of the fishbowl.
On the day: Create two circles (an inner and outer circle). The inner circle has 4-6 chairs. Ask for volunteers for the inner circle and put questions in a stack at the center. Rules on the board.
- 1. Those in the inner circle can talk, but those in the outer circle can't.
- 2. To get into the inner circle, tap someone on the shoulder and trade places with them.
- 3. The outer circle is responsible for making sure the rules are followed. The teacher is not the police, but an equal player in the experiment.
- Mechanics: I usually stay out of the discussion for at least half the class period. Sometimes, the students are reluctant to tap me out once I'm in the center, so I encourage them. Toward the end of a fishbowl, if people in the outer circle seem antsy to talk but reluctant to tap in, I open the discussion to anyone in inner or outer circle. It’s also useful to have a meta-level discussion of the activity when it's done. How did the discussion work? How did it feel to be in the inner or outer circles? Etc.
- Now, a discussion of a twitter-enhanced version of the fishbowl discussion:
- Immediately, an important question was asked about whether this activity would be possible in a classroom without computers.